published Sunday, May 29th, 2011

Howard high school chasing a dream

by Kelli Gauthier
Howard School of Academics and Technology executive principal Paul Smith, right, shakes hands with Roderick McCauley at the beginning of the school day. This year Smith started a program highlighting "My GiG" to reinforce that each student's "Goal is Graduation."
Staff Photo by Patrick Smith/Chattanooga Times Free Press
Howard School of Academics and Technology executive principal Paul Smith, right, shakes hands with Roderick McCauley at the beginning of the school day. This year Smith started a program highlighting "My GiG" to reinforce that each student's "Goal is Graduation." Staff Photo by Patrick Smith/Chattanooga Times Free Press
  • The Howard School
    Watch as students, teachers, and executive principal Paul Smith share their thoughts on Howard School of Academic and Technology.


This story was compiled during the course of the last school year. Reporter Kelli Gauthier and videographer/photographer Patrick Smith spent five months in the Howard School of Academics and Technology observing and interviewing students, teachers, administrators and other staff. Principal Paul Smith gave the journalists full access to the school.



Howard becomes part of public school system.


School moves to corner of East Eighth and Douglas streets; high school courses added.


First high school diploma awarded.


School moves to East 11th Street.


School moves to Carter and West 10th streets.


First black school in state to receive “approval status” from Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.


School moves to its current location on Market Street.


Group of Howard seniors participates in lunch-counter “sit-ins” at Chattanooga restaurants.


School earns recognition for producing graduates who go on to study law, medicine, teaching.


Reggie White, future UT “Minister of Defense” and NFL Hall of Fame inductee, graduates from Howard.


Renamed Howard School of Academics and Technology; uniforms are introduced.


Hamilton County Commission approves renovation rather than building a new school.


Middle school grades added to Howard.


The school hires extra staff to cut down on student absenteeism.


Students make double-digit gains in math and reading on standardized tests.


Graduation rate climbs 12 percentage points to 68.6 percent, the highest level in years.


Number of suspensions drops from 146 to 67. Expulsions decline from 73 to 17.

Source: Newspaper archives; 2010 State Report Card

It came down to this. One last chance for Howard School of Academics and Technology to prove that its students could learn, that its teachers could teach. One last chance to prove that the school could be what it once was.

Once there was glory — and pride. But that golden era is buried so far beneath decades of decline that most people don’t realize Howard ever had one.

Principal Paul Smith says the school can — and will — rise again. Howard was on notice as the year began last August: Improve or be taken over by the state. Smith set out to change the school’s culture. To stop more students from dropping out than graduating, reverse plummeting test scores, halt steep teacher turnover, weed out gang colors on students.

Howard has made gains. Nearly seven of every 10 seniors graduated in 2010, a success rate not seen in years.

Hope was high as the first days of the school year unfolded.

Then reality set in.

The fifth day of classes at Howard came, like many before it, in a flash of fists and furor.

A boy stepped out of the cafeteria wing onto the grassy yard alone. He was surrounded by wannabe thugs, posturing, looking for a fight.

Students gathered. The yard is the best place for fights because there’s room for a crowd, and it’s visible from classroom windows around the building: a center stage for amateur fighters to display their grit.

Shirts came off. Fists flew. The boy was slammed to the ground. Before a police officer could get there, someone kicked him as he lay on the ground.

News of the brawl was walkie-talkied to Principal Paul Smith. He wasted little time, heading straight for the intercom: “All male students report immediately to the gym. Teachers, please dismiss all of your male students to the gym.”

In the end, this fight wasn’t so bad. No one was arrested; no one seriously hurt. Some kids in a gang called MOE were beaten up over the weekend by members of the Boone Heights Mafia. MOE members came to school Monday looking for revenge.

Another neighborhood conflict brought into the school.

Fights happen at every high school: the white ones, the black ones, the poor ones, the rich ones. But teachers at Howard will tell you their students are different; many have little more than pride to their names. Too many grew up without fathers. Too many haven’t seen their parents hold down jobs. Too many are just out of jail or taking care of their own babies.

Howard students come from Chattanooga’s three poorest areas — Ridgedale/Oak Grove/Clifton Hills, downtown and South Chattanooga, according to the Ochs Center for Metropolitan Studies. More than 90 percent of residents in those neighborhoods are economically disadvantaged, which means an annual income of $41,347 or less for a family of four.

They also have among the lowest school attendance rates in Hamilton County — nearly 40 percent of students zoned for Howard fail to meet a state-defined goal of being in class 93 percent of the time.

South Chattanooga and Ridgedale/Oak Grove/Clifton Hills have the highest numbers of home foreclosures in Chattanooga since 2006. In some of those neighborhoods, more than one in four babies are born to moms between the ages of 10 and 19.

Many of Howard’s students live in housing projects. Their neighborhoods are home to rival gangs, their friends are victims of shootings. Eighty-two arrests — 70 misdemeanor and 12 felony — were made on Howard’s campus last year alone, according to Lt. Shaun Shepherd, head of the Hamilton County Sheriff Office’s School Resource Officer program. Incidents at Howard accounted for more than 20 percent of all criminal charges filed against Hamilton County’s public school students, he said.

One of Howard’s school resource officers said that if he wanted to, he could arrest someone almost every day, but he has to pick his battles.

Former Howard student Brendan Barnes, 16, is charged with first-degree murder and especially aggravated robbery in the October 2010 killing of the Rev. David Strong, who was pastor of St. Paul AME Church.

But despite where they come from, Howard students have choices. Right or wrong. Finish or quit. Break the cycle or follow the crowd. This is what Smith will press on them again.

After the yard fight, Smith walked down the hall at his usual quick clip, but this time he was not smiling or fist-bumping students along the way.

He didn’t have a full week of school under his belt, and already he was doing damage control.

Gang fights are always a good chance to lay down the law, and Smith specializes in bravado.

He swung the gym door open, stood before several hundred boys and paused for effect.

“We’ve had five days of peace at Howard, and we’ll have 175 more. If you don’t want to be a part of that, you can go somewhere else,” the principal said to the towering rows of bleachers. He didn’t need a microphone.

“Howard cannot go back to what it was four years ago. You’re too good for that,” he told the boys.

Most people who have an opinion about Howard aren’t wrong. Depending on the hallway you walk down, the student you talk to or the class you observe, Howard is every bit as good and every bit as bad as people say.

Those who have never stepped foot in its halls find it easiest to condemn Howard as the worst school in Hamilton County. It’s the one you’d never want to work at, the one you’d never want to send your kids to.

Howard is one of the 13 worst high schools in Tennessee. That’s what state education officials said last year when they put those schools in a separate school district run with state help.

So far, the Tennessee Department of Education merely has provided oversight for Howard, and it has let Smith and his staff stay put. But this year was a trial.

Howard is in the Achievement School District because it was defined as a “persistently lowest achieving” school, or one with a graduation rate lower than 60 percent for two of the past three years.

If the school does not improve, state officials have the power to:

• Fire and replace Smith and any teachers or school board members deemed to contribute to the school’s failure.

• Run Howard by a partnership between a nonprofit organization and the school system.

• Form a partnership between the state and Hamilton County Schools.

• Completely take over the school.

The problem is, no one knows how much improvement is needed for Howard to get out from under state direction.

In 2008, only half of Howard’s students could solve grade-level math problems. Slightly more than 80 percent of them could read on grade level, and their average ACT score was a 14.7 out of 36. Exactly half of them graduated from high school.

When the federal government began tracking graduation rates in 2003, about three out of every 10 Howard students graduated, according to the Tennessee Report Card.

Howard once was the pride and joy of Chattanooga’s black community, and the school’s alumni can’t help but remember the good old days.

Established in 1865 after the end of the Civil War, Howard was Chattanooga’s first public school.

In the 1960s, the school made national headlines when a small group of black students staged nonviolent sit-ins at whites-only lunch counters.

The school’s alumni association boasts many of Chattanooga’s black leaders, including County Commissioner Greg Beck, state Rep. JoAnne Favors and former Chattanooga City Judge Walter Williams.

A sense of solidarity among those prominent alumni led to a protest of a 2002 school board and Hamilton County Commission effort to replace the school. The facility itself was a historic landmark, alumni said, so officials instead spent $17 million to renovate the school on Market Street in 2003.

There are several theories about what triggered Howard’s decline as a source of community pride, but many alumni agree the slide began in the mid-1960s, around the time of desegregation.

When schools were segregated, Howard was given hand-me-down textbooks and library materials from the white schools, they said, but students made do because it was all they had. Education was the only way out of a segregated world, they were taught, so there was no choice but to band together and make themselves, and Howard, successful.

“Howard succeeded in spite of, not because of, its circumstances,” said Eddie Holmes, who attended Howard from seventh to 10th grade.

Also, in the 1950s and early ’60s, smart blacks weren’t hired in Chattanooga as doctors or lawyers or engineers, so many of the best and brightest turned to teaching instead, alumni said. The result was a school full of dedicated and intelligent black teachers whom students admired.

Then in 1962 — eight years after the federal Brown v. Board of Education case that overturned school segregation — Chattanooga schools began to integrate. Integration came in phases over a decade — first elementary schools, then middle and high schools.

As schools across the county became available to black students, the community suddenly had options it had never had before. To become better, to become middle class, students thought they had to leave Howard.

The tight-knit black community, united in its desire to succeed at the one school blacks were permitted to attend, now dissipated. Those most determined their children would succeed enrolled them at schools like Red Bank, Hixson and Ooltewah — the “white schools.”

“We decided we wanted to be middle-class people and do middle-class things and forget the other folk. But we were the other folk,” said Fannie Holmes, Eddie’s wife and a 1966 Howard graduate. “We started feeling like Howard wasn’t good enough for our kids.”

Around the same time, high-quality black teachers also saw other opportunities in more lucrative careers, so they left teaching.

“You had the cream of the crop, but then they’re getting other jobs now,” said 1959 graduate Irvin Overton. “That’s what started the decline of Howard.”

And in the end, Eddie Holmes said, Howard really never was desegregated.

“Black kids went out, but the white kids never came here.”

Smith believes the school’s glory days need not be only a memory.

While others dismiss his school as a failure, he acts as if it’s a success. And he has reason to be hopeful.

While 41 percent of Howard’s students dropped out of high school in 2001, only a quarter of them dropped out in 2010.

The percentage of students scoring at or above grade level in math jumped from 51 percent in 2008 to 72 percent in 2009, and it rose from 83 percent to 94 percent in English. The state began giving harder tests with higher standards in 2010, so like other schools around the district, Howard’s scores were significantly lower: 24 percent of students scored at or above grade level in math, 40 percent in English.

When Smith talks about the future of his school, he downplays the uncertainty. Tilting his head back and raising his eyebrows, he talks with the confidence of a man in charge of his own destiny.

“Last year this time, they were talking about shutting us down and firing me. But we’ve made it without their help,” he said in March. “Howard’s going to be the state’s first success story. We’re going to make grad rate next year.”

One day in April, Smith huddled with a small group of senior staff, all of them hunched over, trying to read a report.

Brows furrowed, voices hushed. The group was conducting a post-mortem on a critical Tennessee Department of Education review that evaluated everything at Howard from school safety and culture to learning environment and curriculum.

“I know I take failures very personally, but there are people in this building who don’t. And they don’t belong here,” said senior counselor Hilary CQ Smith. She’s worked at Howard for seven years and regularly drives her own car around to the projects, dragging truant students to class.

For three and a half days in December, a team of state administrators descended on Howard, observing classes, interviewing students and collecting surveys.

The teams evaluated the good and the bad at Howard in detailed reports, called “What’s a Good School.”

The state presentation on their findings focused mostly on Howard’s shortcomings. Smith listened stoically.

“Some of this stuff was right on the money. Some of it, eh ... ” he said quietly as the officials left the room. “But when you go with the word ‘all,’ like ‘all students are learning,’ you’ll never hit that.”

The state reviewers noted that many students are disinterested in their classes — a warning sign that they might drop out.

“ ... At-risk students often struggle to learn in a traditional classroom,” the review stated. “Only a few classrooms were observed at [Howard] where learning activities appeared to be sufficiently varied to give all students the opportunity to excel. Few students appeared to be fully involved in their learning rather than disinterested.”

Near the end of his staff meeting, Smith let his gaze wander from the report in front of him and rubbed his forehead with his thumb and middle finger. He raised his eyebrows and looked up at his teachers.

“Howard staff does not get paid enough to do what we do.”

The state report also criticized Howard’s teachers and its learning environment.

“Regarding the course syllabi, students stated that some teachers clarified rules and expectations, but others lacked the skills to teach. They also indicated that some classes were so rowdy that it was impossible to learn,” the report reads.

Distractions at Howard can be hard to escape. If students aren’t listening to music on their cellphones or MP3 players, teachers are playing it over speakers in classrooms. Power 94 is the soundtrack of the school.

And distractions at school are amplified at home, where students are forced to grow up sooner than they should.

After a tour of the Hamilton County Courthouse last year, senior LaToesha Green had managed to snag an internship with General Sessions Court Judge Bob Moon. The opportunity gave her hope.

Then in her neighborhood one day, a friend was playing with a gun they didn’t know was loaded and accidentally shot LaToesha in the chest.

As she recovered at home, she got further and further behind in schoolwork.

Then, the summer before what was to be her senior year, she found out she was pregnant.

“I was gonna do my best to do good,” she said. “I wanted to go [to Spelman College] so bad, but then I got pregnant. I was upset when I first found out, but I’m gettin’ over it. People make mistakes.”

Now she’s a homebound high schooler with a newborn, working hard to make up enough credits to earn a diploma. She thinks she’ll be lucky to go to Chattanooga State.

When Smith, who turned 40 this month, came to Howard three years ago, he was young and green and ready to dive headfirst into his first position as principal. A graduate of Tyner Academy, he’d taught there, too, and figured Howard couldn’t be much different.

“I thought a black school was a black school was a black school,” he said. “Now I know, Howard is the only inner-city school in Chattanooga.”

In his standard suit, tie and matching pocket square, Smith demanded that his students trade in their saggy pants and oversized baseball caps for button-down shirts and ties. Many had never tied a necktie, so Smith taught them.

Like any good politician, he stands in the halls when school begins and when classes change, shaking hands, greeting parents and teasing his charges.

“Hey, I heard about you this morning, Christina,” Smith gravely told a passing student. “I heard you passed your Gateways,” he finished, relaxing his face into a smile.

Normally Smith is at school by 6:30 a.m. and leaves after dark.

To make the kind of progress Smith believes the state is looking for, he has no choice but to stay informed on every student in the building, and that calls for long hours.

Smith’s phone number is programmed into many of the cell phones of Howard’s students. He knows where they live, who their parents are and whether they’re likely to sleep in class.

Smith cheers for his students at basketball games; their poor grades keep him up at night.

But ask him to tell you about key moments in the first three years of his daughter’s life, and he has trouble. His 3-year-old daughter, Bethani, was born two days before he took the Howard job.

His dedication to Howard has caused a rift in his family.

“My wife hates it; pretty soon she’s going to hate me,” he said, only partly joking.

Knowing what he knows now, would he take the job at Howard again?

He gives a short, dismissive grunt.

“Gosh no! I would have taken a job as principal at Orchard Knob Middle.”

But there’s no point in living in hypotheticals. Smith talks as if Howard is a success, because if it fails, he fails.

Though he’s an unflinching optimist, Smith knows his efforts at Howard have limits.

To help improve its graduation rates, Howard uses two programs to aid students who are falling behind.

Credit recovery, a controversial practice at Howard and throughout Hamilton County, allows students who have failed a class but earned at least a 60 average to “recover” the credit by doing extra work.

And this year, Howard also started experimenting with a school within the school for other students who are behind academically.

Called Success Academy, it’s two rows of about 10 computers housed in the school’s old cafeteria.

Students spend their days making up work they should have done weeks, months or sometimes years ago.

Critics say the program artificially boosts the school’s graduation rate by coddling persistently failing students. During a tour of the place for Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond, officials stumbled across several students smoking marijuana on the lawn outside the academy; one of them was on probation for murder.

Even with improved graduation rates, Smith is pretty sure he’ll hit a ceiling.

No amount of credit recovery, phone calls from teachers or free food at parent night will convince some people that reading and math are the only way to truly change lives, to change a community.

Smith said one option is making Howard a magnet school dedicated to career and technical education.

If Shakespeare and trigonometry don’t grab his kids and make them stay in school, maybe cosmetology or heating and air conditioning will, he thinks.

“In high school, it’s notes, test, notes, test, notes, test. [Students] get that at the next level. They don’t need that in high school. They don’t have to be bored to death in high school,” he said. “I just see Howard as having so much potential. I believe in the potential of our kids.”

Howard’s graduation rate—the No. 1 barometer of its success—now is at 68.6 percent, compared with the district average of 80.2 percent. Smith believes that after the numbers are counted from graduation, the school’s graduation rate will jump to above 80 percent.

By his count, 180 seniors walked across the stage May 14 at McKenzie Arena. Those chosen to speak, sing or read poetry during the ceremony focused heavily on overcoming adversity.

Salutatorian Nakkia Isom got choked up while telling the audience about growing up with four siblings and a single mom.

“It’s OK, baby,” someone shouted out as everyone in the auditorium broke into applause.

After gathering her composure, Nakkia continued.

“Class of 2011, I charge you to be determined. Things will not be given to you. Many will fall victim to wanting something for nothing, but that doesn’t work in life anymore.”

Smith knows this year wasn’t perfect. After Day 5, there were two more big fights at Howard and countless smaller skirmishes. Still, the culture is changing, he said.

“Guests tell me they feel safe and comfortable when they come to Howard,” he said. “The kids feel really good about it.”

And academically, the school has a ways to go, Smith said. Fewer than half of Howard’s students scored on grade level on last year’s standardized tests.

“We’re taking small strides academically. Things happen over time, not overnight, and based on the data, I think we have a very long way to go,” he said. “I won’t be at all comfortable until we’re at 100 percent [of students on grade level]. I know it’s reaching, but we can make it. It’s attainable.”

In what also may have served as a personal pep talk, Smith addressed the senior class near the end of the school’s graduation ceremony.

“Let me say to you, class of 2011, this is the commencement, this is not the end,” he said. “Commencement means to begin.”

Of the 13 schools originally placed in the Achievement School District, Howard is one of five that will continue being co-managed by its home district and the state education department. The other eight have been returned to oversight by their district alone. State officials say it’s no secret that if Howard doesn’t continue on an upward trajectory, they have final say in whether they step in with drastic turnaround measures.

At McKenzie Arena, as “Pomp and Circumstance” played on repeat, air horns blasted, cameras flashed and row after row of students in maroon caps and gowns stood up to leave, Smith stepped up to the microphone.

“Please welcome the class of 2011 of the Howard School,” he said with a grin.

Because in the end, it’s only a beginning.

about Kelli Gauthier...

Kelli Gauthier covers K-12 education in Hamilton County for the Times Free Press. She started at the paper as an intern in 2006, crisscrossing the region writing feature stories from Pikeville, Tenn., to Lafayette, Ga. She also covered crime and courts before taking over the education beat in 2007. A native of Frederick, Md., Kelli came south to attend Southern Adventist University in Collegedale, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in print journalism. Before newspapers, ...

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FreedomJournal said...



The Black experience has lasted since the time that man’s records began. Many tales, many letters have been passed down. Many scholars also have never been heard.


We began our story in 1619 as some came as slaves, free and as indentured servants. However, the rule throughout the slave-holding south was a restriction on education for the slaves.

Meanwhile, some stole their ABC’s by the light of the moon and hidden candle light in dark cold slave cabins. Here our story is about those in the cotton fields in the southern region.

But some that were Black did see the inside of a School-house in the north, but the restrictions remained. Meanwhile the letters that were stolen were not seen as a crime. Because the crime was leg irons and shackles.

There was also the crime of long hot hours in the mid- day sun toiling from day to night and starting as soon as God broke the day. Beasts of burden had to rest some time they also needed water and food to eat.

So as the Afro-centric scholars look back in time we reveal that the enslavement of the African was for economic reasons as race were not the question. Racial hate did not cause the economics of racism.

May 29, 2011 at 9:18 a.m.
FreedomJournal said...

Cont. Howard Education

Meanwhile as the dust, blood, sweat and tears settled and flew through the air, racism came upon the invention table. Thus, race came to justify slavery as it harbored some of the greatest ills of humankind.

I looked back and saw Black men, women, boys and little girls and babes carried in arms running for freedom. Christianity was thrust upon some and accepted by many. It also gave rise to slave preachers that also became leaders in the rebellion for freedom.

Thus, we hail Denmark Vesey, Gabriel Prosser, Nat Turner and John the man Brown. We also call your attention to the first and last Black abolitionist and those that were on the outside that also stood up for our freedom. During these times the initial Freedom’s Journal was born.

As we speak and write we also hail in 2009 the FreedomJournal Press on-line and off- line as an independent Publishing House. The smoke cleared and the loud and silent guns, cannons and rifles cease to burn bullets against brother and kinsmen as the Civil War ended.

So did the institutionalized slave system that ruled the south.

But we still wanted our letters and to read and write. If no education was not bad enough we heard Carter G. Woodson say “Mis-Education of the Negro.” How did Blacks miss education? Who threw the book at Black education?

John paused as my participant spectator and said there came a time when enslavement education spoke of the destruction of the natural inclinations to be self-sufficient for one’s own survival. This was a sad replacement for no education at all.

All things fail and have success in someone’s eyes. The missed education thus rendered to some and not just a few a permanent dependence on the former slave masters. Control the mind and control the hands. Thus newly freed slaves were not free.

But why was there a need by former body keepers to control the minds of the slaves that were now said to be free? Is education, was education a panacea for freedom? Or was this just a guise and ruse to keep us confused? Would an independent and free education defeat the historic control of Black people?

As I sit, I cease to wonder asking what is education? Why is it important? My great great grandfather Samuel Arnett rose up one day and found education as the smooth development of knowledge, skill, ability. There had to be some teaching, study and experience said Grand Ma Louisa.

Therefore the definitive qualities of this thing education reveal what? There is the sheer logic of educational need in a developing world? There are no great thinkers in an uneducated society. Does one actually live or function in a world absent of any intellect? Slaves and free need to eat, work and sleep.

May 29, 2011 at 9:23 a.m.
FreedomJournal said...

Cont. Howard Education

At Howard School we once had grades 1-12. However, education is on many levels. The schools of higher learning take us away from our 12th and last year of public education. There are Trade Schools, Business Schools, and Colleges and Universities. There are also various degrees A.A., B.S. M.A. and Ph.D.

Meanwhile, Carter G. Woodson continued to write about Mis-education. Was he radical or just an independent Truth-seeker? Could you really change the way a man would think? His actions are now known as the plots continue. One man thought he was inferior. He soon accepted that status.

Thrown away and an outcast he sought out the back door on his own. He assumed that all things backward and less than less was his way not his destiny. Was it a righteous nature that assured him that inferior was his way and his byways would always be wretched he demanded.

But I heard and felt John say that education is power, free the independent mind and control your destiny and station in life. Let not the oppressor control your education as adversity will lead to confusion. John said don’t allow something good for you to be a tool of those that wish you to stumble.

A system that we wish to defeat as we grow in Truth took shape as enslavement soon after freedom was mandated. Does it still exist? If not in form in fashion and a lingering philosophy of many that still crowd the planet earth.

Since the time the school house door was open certain philosophical aspirations have directed and guided the educational experiences of Black folk. There was Neo-Colonialism and Neo-slavery. So there was no education and then mis-education. There was the church, abolitionist and the philanthropist as some of the first to lean on education Black.

The precedents were set. Before the Red, Black and White blood was dry spilled on the battle fields defeated in a Rebel cause the Freedmen’s Bureau came as teachers for the newly freed slaves. They needed to know their duties as new citizens.

Getting closer to the contemporary times there was a great disagreement over industrial education and classical education. Some love Booker T. while others saw him as a buffoon and clown of dependence and a waiter and busboy that thrived on carrying out the slop jars of those that still rested in mint Julep heaven.

Some also got kick-backs for leading us astray as concessions historically came to the boss that thrived on straw. Who was the head man in charge in the cotton fields? Who handed the overseer the fresh well water and the rifle to annul rabbits of the field and fleeing Black bodies on the run.

Someone who had never looked upon a book in 1865 posed a difficult task to educate. The missionaries came south to see. Some said they had more classes on social programs than reading, writing and arithmetic. But the not so freed Blacks were still seen as basic economic tools to be seen with pity.

May 29, 2011 at 9:24 a.m.
FreedomJournal said...

Cont. Howard Education

We hear Woodson, Carter G. once again. Had the Negro man, woman and child reaped such good White benefit from slavery that his mind revealed exactly what was desired of him mired in a submissive nature? Was this enhanced in books and teaching methods designed do miss an uneducated the Black mind?

John now moved without pausing and said Dear Howard School. Should we close the doors of the schools that miss and call on Black independent Schools? Should they be our primary and secondary schools? Will the community Black in which one lives provide the educational needs of those that live there?

Will those that are Black at Howard School are any other Black school be able to petition the state for their own curriculum? Will truly Afro-Centric curriculums ever be a part of the Black experience? Woodson: As we look to contemporary times and the times in which we now live:

"Blacks who are trained under racism in institutions that do not protest are cowards, and in life will continue as slaves in spite of their limited emancipation."


As we step into the times we now live I saw Old Howard become New Howard and move from the west side to the south side. These were the days when there was only one high school for Black people in Chattanooga. The schools were determined for Black and for White.

Also a slave education still lingered, but gained fertile ground in the more rural south as the urban north and east also the west brought up the rear. Some schools Black were falling down and in need of repair. Also many books were missing but at Howard there was an exception. Dedicated teachers made up for many things lacking.

Then, they had compassion for the students their younger brothers and sisters. I remember as I left with a class in 1963 which was the last to be segregated as City High became Riverside and a place also for Black education. For those that loved history will always remember T. R. Gaston the greatest history teacher and coach in the south east.

The famed “Hustling Tigers” the maroon and gold will always pay tribute to the legendary coach “Chubby James” who led the Tigers to numerous undefeated seasons. R. O. Vaughn was allowed corporal punishment but he was still much loved for his care and concern .We will also love Ms. Blackshear for the great memories and her love.

Meanwhile as high school students we look forward to college and the thrill of life’s experiences. Those steeped in intellect also latch on to the independence to think. What has been the grave and often stale state of independent thinking and the Black community?

May 29, 2011 at 9:25 a.m.
FreedomJournal said...

Cont. Howard Education

So as John and that other man of letters looked on, the Black independent intellectual was thrust although often hidden and unseen into the vanguard of the struggle for freedom and liberation long over-due. What did a young man know of these things in 1961, 62 and 1963?

Dear Howard and illustrious alumni, students and teachers thanks for the young adult memories that can never be re-lived or wiped away from the smorgasbord of life’s events and dramas. This was a learning experience and an educational experience that would carry me through life.

We moved through, I moved through the educational process as young folk growing up in Chattanooga, TN. Most had been taught as our parents and their parents looked back to slavery and beyond realizing that education is a necessary ingredient to relieve many of the problems of second-class citizenship.

There was also something significant about the time period from 1619 to 1900. So Black education for some made a significant leap forward by 1900. We are now in the year 2009. So as we still grasp the reality of the need for education we look on.

Howard O’ dear Howard the first public school in the Chattanooga area. Established in 1865 Howard took its name from Oliver O. Howard a well known Commissioner of the Freedmen’s’ Bureau and Civil War General. Is Howard then oldest public school and Black in Chattanooga?

Historic Register material and just cause to never tear down again. From Howard School (1-12) Howard High and now Howard School of Academics and Technology. Howard has made a leap forward but we the alumni must continue to support the academic schools and of course the Howard Marching 100 and the athletic programs.

I also saw a dedicated and committed alumni association taking a more direct interest in the school's curriculum and the teachers of the school. One said the educational wheel keeps rolling with concerned, committed and talented teachers.

Where will the future take us? One man had stopped looking nor did he pray and see Heaven. He had given up hope when things had been tough. Times were rough, but God would not allow you too much to bear as the saints walked in the Spirit.

May 29, 2011 at 9:26 a.m.
FreedomJournal said...

Cont.Howard Education


One day for sure the world will cease the great debate regarding Truth. There will be a methodology for obtaining Truth. The Spiritual Scientist will be common place as he will be in no assigned place but Truth can be seen and will be seen in a better Light.

John proclaimed that Truth equals Spiritual Science squared. Truth which is Light thus also rest in the principles of non-conformity. John never conformed to the established church. He also never bowed to a world of conformity.

“Whoso would be a man, must be a nonconformist” so said Emerson.

There Is Limited Truth Without God

We come boldly proclaiming that the greatest outlook is through spiritual eyes. Hence a great theory is born and established. This man saw not the ways that are pagan often evil of the world.

He also vowed not to compromise his principles and his independence to think, for a job, bread or butter. He saw no favor in joining any group no matter what prestige or fortune it brought if it called on him,

To become not a creative artist but a robot a clone and clowning puppet only told, commanded and programmed what to do. Never in this mode could he cause anything into being for the first time. When the Arts die so does man.

Thus, he would never paint the Rainbow as the group saw it and not in his own eyes that saw it as he dreamed. Political aspirations chosen or appointed saw those that laid principles, values aside as votes were more important.

Independence broke the back of tradition and custom. As a man called to please Jesus he frowned on the man pleasers. However in the church is where the greatest nonconformity should take place.

Sadly the preachers that conformed to the world spoke not for God. He clearly found this to be a great abomination. But who had the courage to stand up against the established culpables in the Church? He then saw Jesus standing, so was John the Baptist.

May 29, 2011 at 9:27 a.m.
FreedomJournal said...

Cont. Howard Education

All the Great Apostles and Prophets passed by his eyes and lips. However they lingered in mind as he digested their tenure and he gained from what they were inspired by Almighty God to render to the lost and found brethren. Just where is the remnant?

In the great forest he was never alone as many stood with him. Silent although vocal as they made a testament as to who really controlled the world. Meanwhile among those described as humans he saw few as supporters as the world to them was most important.

But what of the life after, the resurrection and Peace and Paradise? Struck by his on-going conversion process he looked back as he conformed not to a bankrupt mis-guided educational system. He knew little though before saw the single Light of Christ.

But he soon saw the T=ss² as this is where Truth begins, started and would never end.

Peace and Paradise, Carl A. Patton, FreedomJournal Press, Howard Class of 1963 Murfreesboro, TN 11 November 2009

May 29, 2011 at 9:28 a.m.
Legend said...

Hopefully, the black community has learned a valuable lesson from all this. Hopefully, they will stop bad mouthing their youth, their communities, one another. Roll up their sleeves and get to work. Traditionally, as FJ speaks in the above posts, over the decades too often blacks became the source of their own persecution. Though not to the continuing extent of blacks, other groups have suffered persecution too in America. However, you will never hear those groups in local or national radio, tv or newspapers bad mouthing their youth, one another, their communities. When was the last time anyone heard a Native American Indian, Hispanic, Jew on national tv referring to their youth as "dirty laundry?" Or local talk radio screaming how bad and dangerous their communities and youth are? ANSWER.........................NEVER!

Equality, love, belief in one self begins at home. In this instance, since the topic remains the struggles in the black community, acceptance begins with.................ACCEPTING SELF!

It pisses many off to see how blacks have once again fallen into the trap by allowing others to march in and, once again, map out their destiny. Reminds me of a saying I once heard from a foreigner and his observation of the African-American community and its interaction with its youth. He said something to the effect, "African-Americans "devour" their own(speaking of their youth, community and in general).

May 29, 2011 at 10:43 a.m.
chet123 said...

It wil continue until traditional Family is restored.......too many Children out of single parent household in.......the dirty secret noone want to talk about.......Problem have to be fix at the root.

Sure everyone can give example of a success story out of single parent house-hold......but do you want to take those odds(if you were a gambler 3 out 10 when considering whats at stake)i'm afraid not...

A CHALLENGE FOR THE BLACK move the Church member to unite and restore the institution of family thru ministering the neighborhoods...the older females in the Church should mentor the young girls(its not happening)This problem have to be fixed at the roots

I alway say Christian is not just a brand...but it is a practice.

May 29, 2011 at 12:18 p.m.
chrisbrooks said...

It is great that the article lists the challenges that poverty has created at Howard, but we should ignore the other red herrings (like trying to blame desegregation for disrupting a sense of solidarity in the black community). Poverty is THE source of the structural problems plaguing our educational system, NOT tenure or collective bargaining (like the corporatists in Nashville have legislated). Now, thanks to the ignorance of some on our School Board (not to mention racists like Fred Skillern on our County Commission), the admin at Howard will have even LESS resources with which to overcome these barriers.

May 29, 2011 at 12:51 p.m.
brokentoe said...

chet/chris. The black community has always had to struggle to overcome those problems you two cite. All the way back to and including slavery. What the ancestors finally realized, today's generations to not, is that the solution lies within. The solution is not inviting others in to solve the issues of the black community. Like an out of control cancer, outsiders often metastsize the problems for selfish gain through exploitation of the black community. It's past due time for the black community to roll up its sleeves and stop whining and crying and running to outsiders, whose only desire is to make more money off the black community issues. Once again, the black community has become the source for wealth and livlehood for others and their communities. Which often remain gated or way out in the county and exclusive. Howard, like many black schools around the nation, the problems began when parents were no longer welcome at the schools. Howard once had all the resources within its reach to keep its school from deteriorating. The students learned all the maths, sciences, foreign languages, Civics etc. to continue own to college if they so desired yet, at the same time, they were also taught immediate markable skills where they could graduate and move right into the workforce, if needed or desired. If something broke down at the school, not only were the janitors hired janitors skilled to fix it, so were the students. Like other black schools in Chattanooga, Riverside etc., Howard was always last to get whatever fundings left over after the white schools got the first pickings. It didn't stop Howard then and it shouldn't stop Howard now. Howard should return to being a k-12 school. It has all the room and space needed. That's why other private schools have been salivating at the mouth in anticipation of Howard being closed so they could jump at the chance to take it over. Whereas for years, decades even, the black community has been singing the sad song about problems and issues of its communities and school, others see the potential. That's the greatest problem existing in the black communities today across the nation. They fail to see their own potential for greatness, both in their children, their communities and themselves. The black community has made it so easy for others to come and take over.

May 29, 2011 at 2:34 p.m.
rosebud said...

My favorite line in the story, about a female Howard student: "she got further and further behind in schoolwork. Then, the summer before what was to be her senior year, she found out she was pregnant."

Um, did she find out what caused that?

And then, this: "The tight-knit black community, united in its desire to succeed at the one school blacks were permitted to attend, now dissipated. Those most determined their children would succeed enrolled them at schools like Red Bank, Hixson and Ooltewah — the “white schools.”

If the writer actually did some research, rather than doing a few interviews with those are skilled at revising history, she might learn that statement is not true. I challenge you to get a 1970 yearbook from those 3 schools....and count the black students. You won't find many.

Finally, what this article didn't emphasize is, the school board and county government have furnished Howard with a newly-renovated facility second-to-none, a rare 9 a.m. start time for sleepy high schoolers, and enough administrators and teachers to staff a university. And yet still it fails. Who else can they blame?

May 29, 2011 at 6:20 p.m.

rosebud, and no white 'girls' are running around with babies?? Had the article been written about a primarily white school, would that have been your favorite line also?

I could easily 'tear' apart your observations but something tells me any counter comments will fall on deaf ears, in your case. Did you derive anything positive from the article?

Why even mention the school board? They can't even handle their own personal affairs let alone the challenges that Howard presents. And in closing the teachers who have left Howard were clearly not among those who are equipped to provide what so many of those students need -- that would be a real heart.

May 29, 2011 at 9:37 p.m.
augal4 said...

Life is about choices. Everyone has obstacles that we must face on a day to day basis. There has to be a line drawn to separate taking ownership in your own life and having the government coddle a group of people to the point of infancy. Why should Howard have different rules than other Hamilton County schools? What kind of example are we really setting by these actions? It starts with the parents and they should be cut off from government assistance after a certain point and become adults. It is officially ridiculous to change the rules that the majority has to abide by, in order to hold the hands of small group of people that refuse to do what is right. Please stop the excuses and start holding people accountable.

May 29, 2011 at 10:15 p.m.
chioK_V said...

When students aren't taught the basics in elementary school, they will remain behind all throughout their school years. It's in the primary grades that mostly poor and minority students'learnings are being sabotaged. From there, they will continue to fall farther behind. It's not by accident this has taken place for decades, but design.

The foundation for succeeding in learning is established in the primary grades. This is where student failure or success is determined.

May 29, 2011 at 10:42 p.m.
rosebud said...

Okay, so now it's the elementary schools' fault. I see. Add them to the list of guilty parties, as the blame game continues.

May 29, 2011 at 11:34 p.m.

people, stop blaming everyone else. It's the parent/parents fault. When you let your kids raise themselves you get this. It will never change because the parents of these colored kids just dont care about them. Their just a check each month from us. Colored parents, get out of bed and off your ass and raise your children like we do and you will have educated kids that take on civic responsibility. Or keep smoking and drinking and raise gang members.

May 30, 2011 at 4:53 a.m.
Humphrey said...

and there you have it. no racism here, of course. just tiny little brains.

May 30, 2011 at 7:51 a.m.
chioK_V said...

@Colored parents, get out of bed and off your ass and raise your children like we do and you will have educated kids that take on civic

And who are those raising their kids like "we do?" You wouldn't be referring to those "responsible" parents whose 25 offsprings were recently arrested for under age drinking after partying like it was 1999 in North Chatt, would you? Some responsible parenting on your non-coloreds part.

May 30, 2011 at 9:42 a.m.
chattyjill said...

In my opinion, all of this comes down to FATHERS. Every child has a biological FATHER, but so few have a FATHER involved in their lives. Studies show that when FATHERS volunteer/work at schools, the kids really focus and work harder. Kids are enamored by FATHERS; kids crave their FATHERS love, attention, affection and affirmations.

Don't get me wrong, mothers are very important too. Kids crave the two parent dynamic in their lives. If one of the two is missing then the kid suffers. Mom takes care of kids all day and when does the kid get excited and face all lit up? When dad comes home!

Blame it on the teachers, blame it on the administrators, blame it on the school board. All that blame is too shortsighted. In my opinion, absentee FATHERS are the point-source-root of most behavioral, emotional, and educational problems children struggle with today.

It is inconceivable to me that our society accepts that when an unexpected pregnancy/child is inconvenient to the FATHER'S life- whether he is too young, irresponsible and freewheeling or too busy with a demanding job- it somehow becomes okay for him to walk away and rely on the mother to raise the child. Just sending child-support isn't enough. Some men are so worthless in their ability to take responsibility that a court has to force garnishments on his paycheck.

But that is way too little - it's not about the money. It's about the lost family dinners, it's about the lost baseball games and the lost fishing trips. It's about the FATHER that is not there for guidance and support only a FATHER can give.

Many crimes and more single-parent struggles can be avoided if young men can hear their father tell them on a daily basis "Our family does not do that," or "In our family we do not carry guns, steal, rob or treat women bad. We respect people, we work hard and we practice safe sex until we are ready to raise a kid." Kids want to know about their family history and family values. "Dad, what do you think about 50 cents' lyrics? Dad, what do you think about Tiger Woods?"

In life, there are no free passes. When a woman bears a child her life changes forever and the same should apply to the male counterpart to that pregnancy. Men who do not FATHER their children are to blame and deadbeat dads come in all colors. Shame on the men who walk away from their responsibility, shame on the families who push the dads out of their children's lives, shame on the grandparents and others who enable men to justify their irresponsible actions. We have a whole society that allows men to just walk away saying "that was just a fling. I'm not ready to be a dad yet." Well, ready or not, here they come.

Monetary child support is not enough. Get busy being FATHERS or get a vasectomy.

May 30, 2011 at 9:47 a.m.
eastridge8 said...

I must say I agree with chattyjill on this...I really do think the whole problem lies with absentee dads in the black home. I know it happens in every family where this is a problem but it's rampant in the black community. And it's so very sad...I have worked with some decent hard-working white and black men who have stayed in the home and it shows. They keep their kids in school and off drugs/out of gangs. They attend school functions and are active in their kid's education. I have also worked with bums who have several children and don't pay child support and do not live with their children and do not marry any of the mothers. And do you know what the hard-working men think of the bums? I think you can guess.

Also, I don't think the "Thug" attitude helps...and lyrics in the Hip-Hop music...and driving with all windows down blaring as loudly as possible...there IS a noise law you know. But by ignoring that law is just one example of disrespect of laws and authority and no respect for anyone traveling beside you. Which is what teachers and principals face every day...simply NO RESPECT.

May 30, 2011 at 10:24 a.m.
Haiku said...

If the schools desire more parental involvement, then they should be more suspectible to involving the parents. If America wants more black dads involved in their children's lives, then they should stop forcing the dads out through massive incarceration.

The educational system can't seem to make up its mind. Now they claim to want parental involvement. However, there was a time when they didn't want parents involved at all. Black parents, especially, were working with their children at home. However, the system begin to notice the children were coming into the schools far too advanced for the grades they were being placed in. This didn't sit right at all with the system. So what did they do? Instead of placing those children on the grade level they according to their present abilities, they threatened the parents to cease working with the kids at home and proceeded to dumb down those students to the grades they, the school system, wanted them in.

Does America really want little black children to learn? Or does America need some group to remain at the bottom of the educational process as a measuring stick for statistics and precentage purposes? Example: This particular racial group A is more sickly, more prone to violence, less educated, less motivated than, say, groups B, C, D, E and so on. Are the failures, problems and issues of the black community nothing more than a societal numbers game?

May 30, 2011 at 11:33 a.m.
chet123 said...

Brokentoe...I remember those days...i'm from south chattanooga in a low income poverty area you can call ghetto...but the ghetto was not in our spirits..we were rich in spirits...very proud..and groomed to be the best...we all went to college...but i also remember there were men in the house-hold .very stronge patriarchs/stronge men working in steel plants and foundry of chattanooga....the father were father taught the males/boys to have manner..the value of working hard...never talk back to with the chores around the house...use your belt with your trousers(no sagging)...make good grades and you better not be sent to the principal office(daddy would whip your butt for bad behavior)...we had six boys...never did i or any of the five ever talked back to our Father(sorry dr.phil LOL LOL)..We were taught by our father and mother to attend sundy school and morning worship service on sunday..where we had church mentors.. i agree much of what you are saying except you are almost playing the victim card...the black church(remember church primary call from Christ is to evangelize thru service of man-kind(your community)there enough churches in high crime area to flood the street with it members...but most of them wont go outside the walls.Also the older women must teach the young female to substain from sex its very important to have self worth...only the female have power to control the birth canal..

save your self for your husband(as other culture with stronge mid-east family sucessful with mom and pop business..wife and husband work together and children)....and preserve your family...raising your childen with values and principles

This problem have to be fixed at the cant throw money at it. Too many black leaders wont admit it because they afraid of losing there position(sad commentary)...the churches are basically matriarchy(female control..women out number men..70% to 80% females)so Preachers can loose their job stepping on the wrong toes...GET THE PICTURE!!

To solve any trouble you first must be honest and tell the matter how much it hurt your pride.

Bill Cosby was right!!!

May 30, 2011 at 12:49 p.m.
chet123 said...


May 30, 2011 at 1:05 p.m.
pNc said...

chet123 I remember those days too. Those so-called "good ole'" days really weren't all that good. The schools have always had issues. However, the administration and principals did more to protect the students from abuse. I recall seeing many a teachers being berated by a principal when they overstepped the lines. Now we have teachers who cut up more than the students.

I'd just like to read one positive article, if at all possible, about black youth and the black community where there isn't a few negatives thrown in. Even when the article is suppose to convey a positive spin, there's usually some black youth or some member from the black community as having had to seemingly walk through the fire before coming out on the other side. This gives a very negative impression overall of the black community. It sends a negative message to outsiders reading the articles and young blacks in general, that they and their race are somehow flawed and inferior to all other groups.

Bill Cosby didn't get it right. Unfortunately, it took a personal tragedy for him to realize that.

I'm glad to see Howard stopped suspending and expelling students for senseless reasons. See how the expulsions and suspensions suddenly drops? Were all those expulsions and suspensions necessary in the first place?

May 30, 2011 at 5:45 p.m.
chet123 said...

PNC...i agree with you on most points..but we have to deal with some root problems that our community refuse to shine light on...i volunteer a lot of my time mentoring young males(not on a pay roll..i do it from my heart) and i see the crack in the foundation of the inner city black community(the SUBURBAN middle class black kid with father/Mother are doing great)....we can talk and debate and make excuses...but that crack have to be mended by the black community itself before we can eliminate these problems...not outside people but the people in black church and black community....i find it difficult to get the same people that do all the talking to sacrifice themselves, their time, and resources to making an and i disagree about cosby...i know he was right..without Cosby saying anything i knew thats where the problem laid..its evidented when you observe the inner city black problem can be corrected or rectified until there is a true acknownledgement.

The Black Churches must declare an all out War and knock on some doors...invest in community recreation centers...Athletic Programs,swinmming team doing the summer, baseball,Golf,Fishing and other sporting competition and events, arts and literature...keep them sum it up...stop talking(not talking about you but some black leaders that on payroll refuse to tell the people the truth fearing they may loose their jobs or position in the community) and start doing



May 30, 2011 at 8:48 p.m.
chioK_V said...

pNc and chet, you both make some very valid points. However, I disagree that black children in the inner city are more prone to criminal activity than children, black, white or other, in the suburbs with two parent families. The issues in the inner cities just get more attention. There's no gurantee that children from two parent families will fair any better than a child being raised by a single parent. Even two parent famous family Bill Cosby children have had their fair share of issues and mess-ups growing up. Poor minority inner-city youth and families are just easier targets when some politicians or law enforcement agency needs to drive home a point and rack up precentages on crime to justify more federal dollars be sent down to take a bite out of crime.

May 30, 2011 at 9:17 p.m.
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